GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Mental health is a growing concern across the nation. In eastern North Carolina, the Greenville Police Department is working to increase resources for mental health situations. They’re doing so by implementing what’s called a ‘STAR Program.’

According to experts, more than 450-thousand adults and youth in the state suffer from a mental illness or other forms of anxiety and depression. With these numbers on the rise, GPD are hoping the program can help those in need.

“We had to take a different approach to mental health, so we partnered with our integrated services, and we came together to come up with a new plan,” said KZ Thomas, GPD Captain. “And we were already doing the Co-responder plan, so we wanted to branch out and add the STAR part.”

The STAR Program is still new, but STAR and the Co-responder program already received the “NC Law Enforcement Agency of the year award” in 2022.

The Co-responder program responds to situations such as suicidal behaviors, anxiety, depression, and substance use.

“Basically, our STAR employees, they can follow up a lot of times. With our Co-responders, that was a part that was missing where they couldn’t do the follow up if they didn’t respond with the officers because the Co-responder responds with the officer,” said Captain Thomas.

“The STAR employee can actually respond without the officer. They could follow up on overdoses and different cases that we deal with.”

STAR stands for Support Team Assisted Response. The city of Greenville is one of the three pilot sites in the state to develop the program, all to provide an alternative response that otherwise would be served by police or fire rescue services.

Just a few types of calls STAR employees respond to include welfare checks, homelessness and non-life-threatening mental health crisis.

“You know when something happens and the police come out, we do what we can but usually we need other people to come in. They go to the hospital, or there are other resources that are coming in, so with STAR they go in, they can get that information, they can call and say, hey would you like this resource this is what we can offer you,” said Captain Thomas.

If needing mental health or other behavioral assistance in Greenville but don’t want to call 911, you can contact:

Mobile Crisis services at 1-866-437-1821 or Trillium Health Resources.